Authored by Mr. Ron Quinn

Treasure hunting in Southern Arizona near Tumacacori with Ron Quinn, brother Chuck, and good friends and partners, Roy Purdie and Walt Fisher explore the "Doorway to the Gods," a mystery in the mountains. This is an excerpt from Ron Quinn's adventure book on Searching for Arizona's Buried Treasures," now available on


Tumacacori Mountains Doorway to the Gods

During our two year odyssey of prospecting and treasure hunting in Arizona, my partners and I heard countless tales of every description. Most were stories of lost mines, buried treasures and some so mysterious, they bordered on the unbelievable.

Many of these tales were related to us ten, fifteen and thirty years ago, by old prospectors residing in out of the way hamlets scattered across this picturesque state.

Out of all these stories, my favorite deals with a natural stone archway hidden deep within the Tumacacori Mountains, and located some thirty-odd miles south of Tucson.

These harsh desert hills are well known within the circle of serious treasure hunters, as several Spanish missions were built in the shadows of these unfriendly mountains. Rumor has it, the padres worked numerous silver mines in these hills for well over a hundred years. Most of this treasure was hastily concealed when they fled for their lives during the Indian uprising of 1751.

The story however does not concern these legendary lost mines, but this strange archway we discovered by accident, before hearing the tale surrounding it. The tale was told to us by an Indian we happened to befriend on a stretch of highway between Tucson and the Mexican border.

We first met John on the old Nogales Highway while returning from Mexico. His old truck had blown a tire, and not having a spare, he stood beside the road trying to hitch a ride to the nearest service station.

We had been prospecting in the area for almost a year, and knew how it felt to be stranded in such a condition. Stopping, we picked him and his flat tire up, and several miles down the road arrived at a gas station.

After having the old tire fixed, we returned John to his truck. He couldn’t stop thanking us enough as not many white men had shown him such kindness. Afterwards, we returned to our base camp located near the southern boundaries of the Cerro Colorado Mountains, some fifteen miles away.

Two months later, we again were back in the Tumacacoris. One of my partners, Ted [Roy Purdie], had some very authentic documentation about a Spanish treasure supposedly buried in these hills.

Late one afternoon a rider came into camp, and it was John. He recognized us and dismounted. After the customary handshaking was over, we found out he was working for one of the nearby ranches. While returning to the corral he spotted our camp from a distance and rode over as the ranchers always liked to know who is camping on their spread.

He had been riding this country for almost twenty years and knew the terrain quite well. Being treasure hunters, we asked John about several landmarks in the area. Of course he knew their location and volunteered the information. He also had heard the various tales of hidden gold, but never searched for any himself.

He told us however, about this mysterious stone arch and where it was located. I informed him we had come across such a formation about six months earlier while exploring the area he mentioned.

John asked us if we had walked through it. We answered, no, and said we spotted the arch from above and hadn’t paid much attention to it. And so unfolds the strangest tale we ever heard.

It seems some Indians were hunting in the nearby mountains around the 1850s, and while returning to camp happened upon the stone archway. Being in a good mood as the hunt was successful, they began chasing each other through the opening in a playful manner.

A short while later, another hunter jumped through but never emerged from the opposite side. Fearing they had entered sacred ground and had angered their Gods, the remaining Indians fled in terror. Arriving back at the village they told the medicine man the story of how their young companion had vanished before their eyes.

As the story spread, others ventured to the high mountain to gaze upon the archway. One Indian did toss several rocks through and these appeared on the other side, until the last was thrown and suddenly vanished. The others backed off in fear and spread the tale about this “Doorway to the Gods,” as it came to be known.

Others, curious about the tale would travel miles to look at the mysterious archway, hoping they wouldn’t invoke the anger of the Mountain God. Another time, an older Indian approached the opening with a live rabbit he had captured and tossed the animal through several times, but it never vanished. John’s father once threw a live lizard in and it disappeared immediately.

John himself has been to the site on numerous occasions and the only time he witnessed anything strange was during the fall of 1949.

A big storm had blown into Arizona and the sky was completely covered with dark clouds in all directions. As he rode past the archway he noticed the sky seen through the entrance was “blue,” but there wasn’t any break in the clouds above.

Dismounting, he walked cautiously toward the arch and peered through at a safe distance. The mountains on the other side hadn’t changed and looked the same, but the sky didn’t have a single cloud showing, and sunlight was shining brightly. Fear gripped him and John slowly backed away. Reaching his horse, he mounted and rode off.

I asked him, if the story is true, why haven’t any scientists from the University of Arizona located in Tucson, investigated the strange phenomenon? He said his people have known about the archway for almost a hundred years, but the tale has never been told to a white man before.

We asked him why he related the story to us. Smiling, John replied that we had shown him kindness when he was stranded on the highway, and thought he would repay the favor by telling us this rather interesting story.

My partners and I returned to the site of the archway several times, but during these visits nothing out of the ordinary occurred.

It’s located in a remote region in the Tumacacori (To-ma-cock-o-ree) Mountains near two high peaks. There are some strange rock formations in the general vicinity, but I’m certain these have nothing to do with the natural stone doorway. On one side of a steep hill is an enormous deposit of geodes or “thunder eggs” and other semi-precious stones. We removed most from the surface, but beneath the ground must be a large amount of these oddities of nature.

Once I approached the opening and slowly passed a long stick through, but nothing occurred. Next I placed my outstretched arm in but again nothing. Ted and my brother stood off to one side shouting I was flirting with danger if the story was true. To this day I regret not letting out a “yell” as I put my arm in, just to see the expressions of their faces. I have to admit though it would have been a dirty trick to play.

This archway could be some “freak” of nature or a rip in the fabric of time, and pulsating very slowly. Perhaps this doorway remains open for short periods, and then closes for minutes, days or weeks.

I often wonder what became of the young Indian supposedly swallowed up by the arch many years ago. If it’s some type of a miniature “Bermuda Triangle,” did he venture back or forward in time, or into another dimension?

When John saw the blue sky he did mention the surrounding country remained the same, so perhaps he was gazing only a couple of years back or forward in time. If this doorway was visible from the opposite side why didn’t the Indian try to re-enter and come back through? It might be he “never” realized a change had taken place, and to him, his friends had vanished. If this is the case, he might have thought they were playing a trick on him and went off searching for his companions. This is only speculation on my part.

Maybe others, such as miners, cowboys, prospectors, etc., have come upon this formation during their travels, but like us, never approached it. As stated earlier, it’s located in a very remote area and I doubt if many have seen it. Not hearing the tale about the arch, most would have only given it a quick glance before moving on. 

I haven’t been back to the site since 1977 and, John no doubt has long since passed away. Perhaps during Indian ceremonies, this strange story is told around open camp fires. There is also the possibility the location as been long forgotten, and the modern Indians of today looks upon the story as just another “tall tale” told by the old ones.

It might be just a legend, but the archway is there. I for one wouldn’t challenge it by bravely walking into the “Gorgon’s Den.” On the other hand, the power that once surrounded this arch could have faded away years ago. I, or anyone else, would be foolish to risk being swept away into some unknown domain to prove the story of the “Doorway to the Gods,” told to us thirty years ago by our friend John, is true.

Note: Another version of this story appeared in Ron’s article “The Mysterious Plateau” in Fate – Magazine, Vol. 59, No. 3, Issue 671, March 2006, Pages 18-25.

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